ST. LOUIS – A lawsuit filed by the former police chief of the posh St. Louis suburb of Ladue claims he was pressured to pull over blacks and set ticket quotas for out-of-towners, but be lenient with the town's residents, even those who drove drunk.
When he refused to go along, he was fired, Larry White said. His suit filed Monday in St. Louis County Circuit Court seeks unspecified damages. It names the city, Mayor Irene Holmes and members of the city council.
Holmes declined comment. Her assistant, Mike Wooldridge, speaking on behalf of the city, said Ladue denies any wrongdoing and believes White's firing was justified.
"We feel confident that we acted appropriately and in the city's best interest," Wooldridge said.
Ladue is among the wealthiest communities in the Midwest. The town of 8,500 residents 10 miles west of St. Louis had a median household income of $161,613 in 2008. That's the most of any town of more than 1,000 residents in Missouri. About 96 percent of Ladue residents are white, and about 1 percent are black.
The city hired White as police chief in 2007. His suit said soon after his hiring, Holmes encouraged him to pull over "those people" and pull them from their cars "so that others would see what was going on and avoid the city of Ladue." White understood "those people" to be blacks who were driving through the city.
But White said he refused to go along. The lawsuit cited racial profiling statistics showing the percentage of black drivers who were stopped, searched and arrested declined under his leadership of the police department.
The suit said that after White eliminated his predecessor's ticket quota system, Holmes told him she wanted a lot of traffic tickets written — but not against Ladue residents.
White said Holmes also pressured him to vigorously enforce driving while intoxicated laws, except against Ladue residents. The suit said White was told that in the past, Ladue police did not arrest residents suspected of DWI but instead took them home.
White was fired in August.
His attorney, Chet Pleban, did not respond to a phone message seeking comment.